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Tibet Culture

Tibet Culture

Tibetan culture developed under the influence of a number of factors. Tibet's specific geographic and climactic conditions- its altitude, short growing season, and cold weather- have encouraged reliance on pastorialism, as well as the development of a different cuisine from surrounding regions. Contact with neighboring countries and cultures- including India, China, and Mongolia- have influenced the development of Tibetan culture, but the Himalayan region's remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinctive local influences. Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the 7th Century. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of Buddhist religion, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form in Tibet, influenced by the Bön tradition and other local beliefs.

Tibetan food and beverages:
The staple Tibetan food is barley flour (rtsam-pa), which is consumed daily. Other major foods include wheat flour, yak meat, mutton, and pork. Dairy products such as butter, milk, and cheese are also popular. The people in the higher altitudes generally consume more meat than those of the lower regions, where a variety of vegetables is available. Rice is generally restricted in consumption to the well-to-do families, southern border farmers, and monks.

Two beverages - tea and barley beer (chang) - are particularly noteworthy. Brick tea from China and local Tibetan tea leaves are boiled in soda water. The tea is then strained and poured into a churn, and salt and butter are added before the mixture is churned. The resulting tea is light reddish white and has a thick buttery surface. Chang, which is mildly intoxicating, is thick and white and has a sweet and pungent taste.

Tibetan Local Customs
Tibet's culture is unique in the world. Due to its extreme environment and high altitudes it has formed its own unique customs over thousands of years. It is one of the aspects of Tibet that most visitors will find most intriguing. Tibetan's hospitality is legendary and many Tibetans find it a great honor to welcome guests into their homes and treat them to a wonderful evening of food, wine, and dancing. Tibet's distinctive communal cultures such as etiquette, dress, marriage and burial ceremonies are colorful, unique, and unforgettable.

Tibetan Songs and Dances:
Tibetan folk songs and dances are an indispensable part of every Tibetans' life, especially during festivals or important events. Being named as the "Ocean of Songs and Dance", Tibet has several unique forms of singing and dancing: Guoxie (circle dance), is an informal dance popular in countryside of Tibet; Duixie (tap dance), is usually accompanied by stringed instruments; and Zhuoxie (drum dance) that is popular mainly in Lhoka, Lhasa and Xigaze. Their melodious love songs, with bursts of hearty laughter, keep reverberating over the grassland. Tibet also has the Ghost Dance, Mask Dance and Guozhuang Dance, each of which represents Tibetan local customs.

Clothing:
The Tibetan people have created their own unique style of clothing that is adapted to the land, weather and way of life, as well as the history, culture, beliefs and character of the local people. Each area of Tibet has its own distinct style of clothing. Tibetan clothing consists of a robe and shirt. The Tibetan robe worn by men is broad and is normally fastened under the right arm, while the women's are slightly narrower with or without sleeves. Men typically wear white shirts with high collars, while women wear various colors with turndown collars. The wearing of aprons is very popular among Tibetan women, as it is considered to be a privileged dressing style specially reserved for the married women.

Wedding Customs:
After the Tibetan girl's rite of passage, she is eligible for marriage. One of the most important and interesting parts of a Tibetan's life is the wedding ceremony. During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom will kneel down in front of the groom's parents and a photo of the Buddha while monks chant. The bride will then take her ring finger and flick milk tea three times to salute heaven, earth, and the Buddha. The wedding feast will then begin. Sometimes the groom and the bride are nearly buried beneath the large number of Hadas draped across their necks. When the ceremony is over, a party is held, at which everyone sings and dances till dawn. The wedding ceremony can be as short as one day, but frequently can be as long as ten. During the celebrations, the host will prepare sumptuous food, tea and wine for the guests, who will enjoy themselves to their hearts content.

Tibetan Burial:
The most common burial in Tibet is the Celestial Burial or Sky Burial. It is the show of Tibetans' respect for nature and an understanding of life. Sky Burial is how commoners have been buried for centuries. A sky burial is not considered suitable for children who are less than 18, pregnant women, or those who have died of infectious disease or accident. The ritual of sky burial usually begins before dawn. The corpse is offered to the vultures which are regarded as the "Sky Dancer", and they are believed to take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives. This mystical tradition arouses curiosity among those who are not Tibetan. However, only the funeral party is allowed present at the ritual, and they all strongly object to visits by the merely curious.

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